NOAS - Seeking Asylum in Turkey

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The Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers (NOAS) tarafından 2016 yılında yayınlanan Seeking Asylum in Turkey: A critical review of Turkey's asylum laws and practices Raporu.

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Executive Summary

Turkey is currently the country in the world hosting the highest number of asylum seekers and refugees. It is also the most important transit country in the context of the current migration to Europe. There has consequently been intense European focus in the past year on enhancing cooperation with Turkey and, in particular, on exploring legal avenues to return to Turkey asylum seekers, refugees and migrants who transited through Turkey to Europe. As a result of these recent developments, it has become crucial to understand what awaits asylum seekers, refugees and migrants in Turkey, both in terms of their legal status, rights and entitlements and in terms of how the relevant legal framework is implemented in practice.

Turkey’s new migration and asylum law framework, which was developed as part of the EU accession process, features two distinct categories of protection: (i) international protection statuses (ie, refugee status, conditional refugee status and subsidiary protection), which are available upon individual assessment of asylum seekers, and (ii) temporary protection status, which can be provided on a group basis in mass-arrival situations where high numbers make individual assessment unfeasible. The distinction between refugees and conditional refugees is a result of Turkey’s geographical reservation to the Refugee Convention of 1951 and the Protocol of 1967 (together, the Refugee Convention), under which only “Europeans” can obtain refugee status in Turkey. The Syrians in Turkey are excluded from Turkey’s international protection regime; they are instead subject to “temporary protection” on a group basis.

The main issue with Turkey’s asylum system is that the protection statuses available under Turkish law (other than actual refugee status) fail to provide a sufficient degree of predictability or long-term prospects in Turkey, and, because of the country’s geographical reservation to the Refugee Convention, actual refugee status is available to very few of the people seeking asylum in Turkey. Other key issues relating to the asylum system include a considerable lag in the implementation of the new laws and a pervasive lack of transparency in practice. These and other aspects of Turkey’s new asylum framework are described and analysed in Section 3.

The set of social and economic rights to which asylum seekers and refugees are legally entitled is far from sufficient, and access to these rights in practice is even more limited. Key problems include lack of state-funded accommodation, limited access to legal employment and low levels of school enrolment. There is a general lack of awareness and knowledge (both on the part of asylum seekers and refugees and on the part of the relevant local authorities and other actors) with respect to the rights and entitlements available under the law. In addition, language remains a major barrier to genuine access. In terms of both legal entitlement and practical access to social and economic rights, there are important differences between Syrians and people of other nationalities. Legal entitlement and practical access to social and economic rights is described and discussed in Section 4.

At present, there are major legal concerns involving unlawful detention in and unlawful deportation and refoulement from Turkey of asylum seekers and refugees. Such practices are believed to have increased in recent months as a result of the EU-Turkey negotiations on migration and Turkey’s pledge to the EU to restrict the transit through its territory to Europe. In recent months, human rights organisations have made very serious allegations that call for investigation into these matters. Other legal concerns relate to access to legal representation and assistance, and sufficiency of existing appeal procedures. These issues are discussed in Section 5.

Finally, “return to Turkey” has been an increasingly central aspect of the European migration and asylum debate in the past year. In this regard, two developments are key: The first is the parties’ decision to give the EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement full effect from June 2016 (which is earlier than the date provided in the agreement), and the second is the 18 March deal. The 18 March deal involves an arrangement between Greece and Turkey for the return of asylum seekers on first-country-of-asylum and/or safe-third-country grounds. Whether it is return of rejected asylum seekers and non-asylum-seeking migrants under the EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement, or return of asylum seekers on first-country-of-asylum and/or safe-third-country grounds, return to Turkey raises important legal questions. These and other aspects of return to Turkey are discussed in Section 6.


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